From chemist to patent attorney — to bread baker? Such is the career trajectory of Philip Reilly, the British-born founder of Portola Valley Bread.
“A few years ago I took some time off due to some family responsibilities,” he explains as he kneads dough for the weekly batch he sells exclusively at the Portola Valley Farmers’ Market on Thursdays. “I’d always loved baking, so I enrolled at the San Francisco Baking Institute, which is the best artisan baking school in the Bay Area. That really helped me take my baking to the next level.”
That his products are great is evident by the long line that forms at the PV Market before it opens at 3:00 pm. “I bring about 100 loaves of bread and 60 plus scones and sell out within a half hour,” he says, adding that all are baked in his home kitchen under a cottage food operations license. “More than a few friendships have been formed among people who stand in line!”
Another reason for the popularity is that he bakes bread that isn’t available anywhere else, like his most popular bread, buckwheat with figs and walnut, as well as quinoa-Kamut and corn porridge. “I use ancient grains that people might not know about, ” he says. “Many have health benefits.”
So what’s next for the baker? Given the demand, how does he plan to expand? “My idea all along has been to see if I enjoyed doing this and to build a good customer base,” Philip says. “I want to continue to sell direct to customers — I really enjoy the interaction. So I’m looking for a store front. I definitely want to stay local.”
The Portola Valley Farmers’ Market is held year round from 3:00 to 7:00 pm at the Town Center (765 Portola Road).
Photos by Irene Searles